A network of Canadian families, whose loved ones have died due to substance use, has sent hundreds of photos and stories to the prime minister’s office in hopes of invoking an emotional response to the opioid crisis.
By sending the photos, Moms Stop the Harm was hoping to put a face to the significant number of people who have died in Canada as a result of the opioid crisis.
“I don’t know if he cares about our children,” the project’s co-founder, Petra Shulz, told Global News.
Shulz’s youngest child, Danny, died after an accidental fentanyl overdose when he was 25.
Shulz said the idea for the “Do Something Prime Minister” photo campaign came to her the day Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie died.
“‘Wow!’ I thought. “There’s our prime minister crying for one person who passed away,” Shulz said. “Our kids are not addressed. He’s not talking about them.”
Shulz said she felt that the issue was not a priority for the federal government.
“We needed to show the prime minister that not only does Gord Downie deserve tears, but our children do too.”
The photos were meant to be the most powerful message they could send; a message that each person was somebody’s someone.
On Tuesday, NDP MP Don Davies brought up the campaign in question period at the House of Commons and called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to the crisis “glacial.”
“The prime minister has ignored our calls to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency,” Davies said. “How many more Canadians need to die before he finally listens?”
But it wasn’t Trudeau who responded. Instead, it was Health Minister Ginette Petipas Taylor.
“Formal declarations of an emergency will not provide us with additional tools or extra measures to provide to the opioid crisis,” she responded.
“The first thing the prime minister could have done was spoken to the families in Canada affected by the opioid crisis, to the families that have lost loved ones and more importantly, to the families who have loved ones struggling,” Shulz said.
“Instead, he let the health minister take his place, who mostly delivered a prepared statement,” she said.
Moms Stop the Harm wasn’t just looking for words of encouragement, they wanted action and an acknowledgement that Shulz says could destigmatize those who are struggling with addictions.
“Because… people who use substances, they’re stigmatized at all levels of society and also by our prime minister,” she said. “He’s the leader of our country, so I expect him to take this seriously.”
Shulz wants to see an end to the stigma and hopes one day, drug issues will be treated as health issues instead of criminal matters. She also wants to see an investment in harm reduction measures from the federal government and access to more readily available treatment across the country.